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Achalasia is a rare motility disorder of the esophagus. This disorder is characterized by the inability of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) to relax when eating and impaired ability of the esophagus to push food into the stomach (peristalsis). Achalasia affects men and women equally, and tends to occur more frequently in middle age individuals. It is not known what causes achalasia. Unfortunately, achalasia does not have a cure. Only the symptoms can be managed.

Treating Achalasia at UT Health Austin

The gold standard for diagnosing achalasia is a high-resolution manometry test. This is a test that is offered in the Heartburn and Esophageal Disorders Center. It involves a tube that is placed in the nose and sits in the esophagus, designed to measure the pressures in the esophagus during swallows. Other diagnostic tests include video barium swallow and upper endoscopy.

Our team of experts will conduct a thorough diagnostic workup to customize a treatment plan that is right for you. It is important to remember that there is no cure for achalasia; treatment options are aimed at relaxing the lower esophageal sphincter. There is no method to restore the motility of your esophagus. Your treatment plan may include:

Medications: Certain medications may help the LES relax.

Botox Injections: BOTOX can be injected into the LES in order to relax the sphincter muscle. Results are often short-term, and injections may need to be repeated every 6 months.

Balloon dilation: The esophagus can be dilated with a balloon at the time of upper endoscopy. Results are also short-term, but may provide symptom relief and improve the ability to swallow.

Surgery: Surgery can be effective long-term for certain qualified individuals. The surgery, called a heller myotomy, is performed laparoscopically (small incisions on the abdomen). It involves cutting the muscles of the esophagus in order to allow it to relax, and then rebuilding the valve to prevent acid reflux.

About the Heartburn and Esophageal Disorders Center

The UT Health Austin Heartburn and Esophageal Disorders Center has assembled a team of experts that includes a gastroenterologist, surgeons, associate providers, imaging experts, a dietitian and social workers. This team enables us to provide the right care for the right patient at the right time. For some patients, nonsurgical interventions such as lifestyle modifications and medications can help improve symptoms of reflux, while surgery may be the best course of action for others. Whatever your needs, our team is here to listen and work with you to develop a treatment plan that is right for you.